ERC Starting Grant to Hemminki and Ovaskainen

The University of Helsinki also rewarded researchers who made it to the second round.

vice-rector Björkroth The European Research Council (ERC) awards EUR 290 million to promising researchers who are at an early stage of their careers. The ERC received more than 9,000 applications for the Starting Grant, of which 300 researchers will receive awards. This year, five of the successful applicants were Finnish. In proportion to population, Finland was the fourth most successful country.

Of the University of Helsinki researchers, the Starting Grant was awarded to Professor Akseli Hemminki, who is studying viral therapy in cancer treatment, and to Senior Researcher Otso Ovaskainen, who is researching natural population dynamics. The ESC grant ranges from EUR 100,000 to 400,000 per annum for a maximum of five years.

Established in 2007, the ERC is a significant step towards establishing a European research area.

“The ERC and the funding it provides comes at an opportune moment for Europe, considering global competition,” says Johanna Björkroth, Vice-Rector of the University of Helsinki. ”For an individual researcher, the sum is substantial and a clear sign of the high standard of the research that this person is carrying out. How accurate this funding instrument is as a steering method remains to be seen, since this was the first time ever the grant was awarded.”

Some 70 researchers from the University of Helsinki submitted their applications. “We are already preparing for the next rounds of applications,” says Vice-Rector Björkroth. The Advanced Grant application round is open and the next round for the Starting Grant will be in summer 2008.

The Vice-Rector would like to see as many Finnish researchers as possible submit applications to the currently open Advanced Grant application round, and she also hopes that the Starting Grant will continue to be as popular as it was this year. ”It is important to have stiff competition for the grants,” she says. “Naturally, competition for funding is tough, but from what I have heard the application process was not overly arduous.”

To do well in the competition for the grant is an accomplishment in itself, even if the grant is not eventually awarded. In fact, other University of Helsinki researchers who made it to the second round, Aapo Hyvärinen from the Department of Computer Science, and Sari Lauri, from the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, received an incentive grant worth EUR 125,000 from the university.

Text: Tapani Sainio
Photo: Eero Roine

Translation: Valtasana Oy

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